Sunday, April 24, 2016

Courageous Hospitality Towards The Difficult, Painful, And Unknown

"May you find in yourself a courageous hospitality towards what is difficult, painful and unknown."  John O'Donohue

I awoke today, as I do many mornings feeling pain and stiffness that makes staying in bed a little longer take priority over the need to get up. I go to bed each night hoping that the next day might be easier, and that easier might become a trend. I stay committed to being informed by the moment, and yet I hold a place in my future for the hope of feeling better. Feeling better may or may not materialize. I don't dwell on wanting things to be other than the way they are, but it's part of a healthy coping mechanism to be open to other possibilities. I can't not want to feel better. 

I'm always looking for ways to reframe this paradox of being in the moment versus hoping for the next moment to feel other than the way it is. The potency behind the desire to feel better fuels my curiosity and my underlying will to live. Learning how to hold that desire while still attending to the state of how things are is a complicated dance. I'm inspired by a story about 5-yr-old Guthrie, the grandson of the poet William Stafford, who presumably said after his favorite caterpillar was squashed, “You get what you don’t want and the spirit of what you want comes and helps you.”

I frequently revisit John O'Donohue's poem, A Blessing for a Friend on the Arrival of Illness for inspiration. Each day a different line grabs my attention. Today I'm pondering the "courageous hospitality" I have learned to extend towards the cancer and auto-immunity that have taken up residence in my body. If I courageously and graciously open the door to my life, all sorts of things wash in (and out) with the natural ebb and flow of the tide. Perhaps Guthrie's idea that the spirit of something I want (to live!) will help me as I face the reality of what illness has taken away from my life.

Being courageous doesn't mean that I'm never afraid. Sometimes I am, but when that fear taints my ideas about the future, I try to let go of the scenario that hasn't yet happened. Why worry now about some possible future where I'm unable to walk, hold a cup, or dance? Why worry about unimaginable cancer treatments or dying? I channel fear into fuel for the present where I need motivation to care for myself more deeply. This is courage; feeling fear, and still living my life doing the best that I can.

"Hospitality" is the harder part of the task. I think of being generous and welcoming as something that's easy with friends and loved ones. It's challenging to find a way to genuinely extend hospitality towards the way I feel this morning. Perhaps, like in Rumi's poem, The Guest House, an unexpected visitor has cleared me out, hopefully for some new delight. I don't have to stare directly at my diseases and invite them for an open-ended stay in my body. I can however, be hospitable towards "what is difficult, painful and unknown." The future is what is likely to be "difficult, painful and unknown." I know that the future contains the inevitability of death, but until that time comes, I can easily welcome the part of the future in which I'm alive, as the spirit of wanting to live and thrive comes to escort that future into each unfolding moment.

(I also posted an entry on my other blog, today on the topic of Generosity, Kindness, Gratitude, And Compassion In Tango.)